tv American History TV CSPAN October 12, 2014 8:00pm-8:11pm EDT
and granting -- political courage in granting the pardon. re speaking with richard norton smith. >> thank you for speaking with us. see few moments, we will president gerald ford on his speech to the house judiciary committee. how many other president have testified before congress? vague. is a little bit there is a tradition that abraham lincoln appeared in formally for a congressional 1862ttee early in following the apparent theft of a presidential message, which many had associated with mrs.
lincoln. the story in the "herald tribune" said that woodrow wilson went to the house judiciary committee for an of thel discussion treaty of her side. but that is it. -- treaty of versailles. but that is it. did the house judiciary committee ask him to testify? >> he exit proposed to do so. -- he actually propose to do so. all sorts of questions were raised. not just from the usual political adversaries regarding
,ossible motives behind this and in the ensuing uproar, he decided that it would make perfect sense for him to break and in facton become the first president since lincoln to testify before a judiciary committee. emember, this is after 25 years on capitol hill. there, andortable up the committee probably treated him less harshly than somebody they had not known and not worked with for 25 years. you say, he had spent 25 years on a hill -- stronge were lots of , and that was the
committee that even i was rake nelsono rockefeller over the coals, they had asked some tough questions during the gerald ford confirmation hearing. so it was no pushover. >> the president saw the reaction to the pardon and opposed it to the committee, what is he seeing in the mood of the country? >> this man had already made history in so many ways. certainly in unwelcome ways. polls fell faster than any other president in history overnight. >> gerald ford? fell from before until after the pardon.
to remember that we have to re-create the mood of the country. the country had been through two years of hell. it'd been almost a year during which he had to watch every word lest he inadvertently give the impression that he not follow the oaths of the oval office. did this testimony before the the desire toate go after neck the -- after nixon? >> there had been this long. of time where one after another where suddenly there was this breath of fresh
so, and for a month or things seemed to be directly different. more open, more trustworthy. and then to the surprise and shock of some people, there have been no preparation for this. on a sunday morning, americans wake up as either president on tv, pardoning his predecessor. it would have been a surprise if that had not been his reaction. committee wanted credible assurances that there was in fact no deal. that overwhelmingly was what they wanted to hear. it was interesting. they wanted to hear who he had discussed the pardon with, whether had there been discussions when he had taken the office, they wanted to know whether he had had any contact
with mr. nixon during that month. they were specifically interested in dr. henry , andnger, mr. rockefeller more portly, alexander haig, who was nixon's chief of staff. precipitatinge agent back on august 1, when in two conversations that day with gerald ford, he had first hinted at and then made explicit the likelihood -- the imminent likelihood -- that ford would in fact become president and then tacked on almost as a footnote, a series of options, including a pardon, affecting his predecessor. >> our viewers will see all of that as the president mentioned that. do you think the president was
successful in front of the committee? >> i think he was successful. you will see this in the short term, but it must also be said that his colleagues who knew him mostwere perhaps predisposed to believe him when he said that there was no deal. the action of going before congress, which is really the muster mattock thing about all of this -- had a reinforcing quality to it. now, since the years, the debate has moved on as to what the specifics were, what the motives were, who intended what, what signals percent, and to the larger issue of whether this was good for the country. and i know from personal conversations with him, that president ford wit to his grave, first of all that there was no deal, and secondly, enormously
he was sort of proud and reassured by the action of the 2001,. kennedy library in i believe it was, when they gave him the courage award, specifically for this act. that was huge symbolism within that gesture. think that testimony in itself put him on the road and the country on the road to healing? >> i think it did. raw andn, feelings were do not heal overnight. there are some people who objected to a pardon on any number of grounds, and also who do not believe a came about as innocently as ford said. >> there were people on the judiciary itself -- >> you will see that. elizabeth holtzman was
particularly doggedly strong in her questioning. one of the things you watch this testimony is that the committee operates under the clock, and everybody gets five minutes, which is really not enough to probe this in any great detail, and there is a sense of frustration just beneath the surface. ,> well, richard norton smith thank you for being here with us on american tv. >> you're welcome. >> coming up, president gerald ford in front of the house judiciary committee on his pardon of president nixon.
>> the committee will be in order. the committee on criminal justice, the house committee on judiciary welcomes the president of the united states, gerald r lord. we are priests -- gerald r. ford. we appreciate his willingness to answer our questions in this inquiry. and also to except inquiries on the subcommittee and to carry out the response bill is assigned to it by the representatives. perhaps, the first documented appearance of a president of the united states before a committee or a subcommittee of the united states congress. now the chair understands, mr. president, that you have a commitment at noon, as of the house convened at 11:30 a.m. toda